L.A. wins more contract concessions from DWP union

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials survey construction along Coldwater Canyon Blvd. in Studio City.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A day after Mayor Eric Garcetti appealed to the public to help him secure changes to a proposed Department of Water and Power labor agreement, city negotiators said they had won additional cost-cutting concessions from the utility’s main employee union.

Under the latest proposed terms of a four-year labor pact, a pay hike of up to 4% in October 2016 would be reduced to about 2%, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, a high-level budget analyst, wrote in a confidential memo to the City Council.

After discussing the proposal behind closed doors, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Tuesday that Garcetti and the council are “really, really, really close” to reaching agreement on the contract.

“The council is optimistic that there will be a partnership with the mayor,” he said. “You can feel it on the hair on the back of your neck.”

Garcetti said last week that he would not sign an earlier version of the proposed agreement, even though it included three consecutive years of zero raises and reduced pension benefits for future DWP employees. Compensation at the city-owned utility became a major campaign issue in this year’s mayoral race when the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and its affiliates spent $2 million to defeat Garcetti.


On Monday, Garcetti sought to ramp up pressure for more concessions by launching an online petition asking Angelenos to support his efforts to secure new language allowing elected officials to seek changes to costly or inefficient work rules.

The newly revised labor agreement would reduce entry-level pay for 34 categories of DWP employees, or about 870 employees or 11% of the utility’s workers, according to Santana’s memo.

The proposal also would give the mayor and council more power to re-examine agreements affecting DWP bonuses, overtime and work rules, according to the memo. Garcetti has taken aim at those agreements, which can cost ratepayers millions annually, particularly one that requires DWP workers to be offered overtime pay when outside contractors are hired.

Wesson and Garcetti both sought the latest changes, which were supported in recent days by the chief negotiator for the DWP union, the memo said.

Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb would not say if the mayor would support the revised deal, but noted that “important progress” had been made. Wesson said negotiations had seen “movement” in the last 48 hours and talks were continuing.

“Did the council want to take a vote? Yes,” he said. “But there’s still things that you need to iron out. And that’s what we’re doing now.”

Councilman Paul Koretz, who previously signaled his support for the salary proposal, said he expected Garcetti to find common ground with the council. “I thought even the original deal was incredibly positive for the city,” he said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s been slightly improved as negotiations go along.”

Garcetti told a room full of neighborhood activists at City Hall on Monday that he was not satisfied that enough progress had been made on work rules, the size of the 2016 raise and employee contributions toward health insurance costs. On Tuesday, he sent out an email blast to supporters laying out his case for additional contract changes.

“You elected me mayor to reform DWP, and just six weeks after taking office, your vote is making a difference,” Garcetti said in the email. “Right now, there is a new DWP contract proposal on the table and I want to make sure it delivers real reform to save money for you.”

The latest salary reductions would save $15.4 million over four years, according to Santana’s memo. Overall, the proposal is projected to save $4 billion over 30 years, chiefly from reduced pension outlays, according to the council’s policy advisors.